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New Environmental Study Key on Long Beach LNG Terminal Proposal

April 11, 2005
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While the public scuffling between pro and con factions gain most of the attention, the key to the eventual development of Sound Energy Solution's (SES) LNG import terminal in the Port of Long Beach, CA, is an environmental impact review (EIR) currently in "administrative draft" form, according to Robert Kanter, the Port's planning director. The EIR should be released for public comment by mid-June, he said.

"Revisions are being made after review by our internal quality assurance team," Kanter told NGI in an interview last Wednesday. There will be a 45-day public comment period on the draft EIR through the end of July most likely, and during that period the Port will hold a public hearing, at which it is predicted the same opposing factions will show up in big numbers as they have for the past year. Such is the state of attempts to site major LNG receiving terminals along the U.S. East and West Coasts.

Elected officials in the City of Long Beach, which along with adjacent Los Angeles Harbor jointly represent the busiest port in the United States and third busiest in the world, heard from several hundred pro and con activists at the recent forum. The opponents claimed "tremendous momentum" for their plans to stop the $400 million, 700 MMcf/d facility, which is being developed by SES, a Mitsubishi subsidiary, and ConocoPhillips.

"It was about 50-50 [opponents and proponents]," said a spokesperson for the city. "If anything, there may have been more pro-LNG people [mostly union members] who showed up."

Kanter said the forum was "pretty much an informational" venue, and he doesn't envision that it will have any specific impact on the EIR, but the volume and content of the public comments could lengthen the revision period and delay the ultimate adoption of the environmental document, which he now thinks could be made final early in the fall. "Really there is nothing coming out of the informational forum that I would expect to impact the schedule for public comment," he said.

"The big unknown surrounds the comments we eventually receive in the public comment period; we have to respond to all of those," Kanter said. "Responses and/or changes have to be made, and then ten days before prior certification by the Port board of harbor commissioners, they have to be dealt with. The hope is that we will get the final document to the board some time in the fall, and September would be ideal. It is controversial, so I expect a lot of comments."

When asked if the local opposition is "hardening," Kanter drew short of that characterization, noting that the opposition has been around "almost from the get-go," and the same people are still out there and still pretty "firm in their position."

"I just hope the people on both sides will take the time to read the fundamental document, and hopefully make their decision on what I consider better information and facts, as opposed to rhetoric and emotion."

SES last year brought in a unit of ConocoPhillips as its partner in the development of the facility (see NGI, July 14, 2004). The project will have a peak capacity of 1 Bcf/d, and is projected to begin operations by the early part of 2008 as the first LNG receiving terminal in California, if not the entire West Coast of North America.

The "No LNG in LB" citizens group discounted the pro-LNG people who showed up at the all-day city council-sponsored forum, alleging the proponents' backers were made up entirely of paid union members, and did not include even one local resident who wants the LNG facility built

"Of course, those guys are going to support an LNG terminal," said Bob Hattoy, of the California State Fish and Game Commission. "They see it as job security. It won't be in the heart of their city and it won't affect their families. So why would union workers who don't live in Long Beach have a problems with a LNG terminal here."

In an announcement following the April 2 forum, the anti-LNG group said "the collective voices of Long Beach residents opposing SES's LNG proposal have gotten mighty and their opposition is growing."

The nearest residences to the proposed site are about 1.5 miles away in the radius surrounding the harbor site on former U.S. Naval property, and Kanter said the big question is: "Are there potential impacts to those residences, and what are probabilities of those impacts? That is part of the analysis being done for the environmental documents."

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